Here are the winners of the 2016 Google Play Awards

Google's crowns 10 must-try apps in its inaugural app awards ceremony.

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Credit: Jason Cipriani
The first official Google App Awards

Google on Thursday announced the inaugural winners of its newly minted Play Awards for the best Android apps. A total of 50 apps were nominated, spanning across 10 different categories.

Apps were nominated and selected based on quality, innovation, and the requirement that they have launched or had a “major” update in the past year.

Google announced nominees back in April, with the likes of Dubsmash, Alto’s Adventure, Toca Nature, Robinhood, Minecraft Story Mode, and Clash of Kings found on the list.

So who won? Let’s take a look.

play awards clash royale
Best Game: Clash Royale

Supercell is known for its Clash of Clans game, and now Google is giving the company props for its Clash Royale game.

Clash Royale looks and feels like a spin-off of the Clans before it. Here players battle one another in real time using a series of strategic cards. Those cards offer different types of troops you can march into battle, and if you’re good enough, come out victorious on the other side. It's very different from the base building of Clash of Clans.

Clash Royale (free)

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Best use of Material Design: Robinhood

Robinhood wasn’t commended for giving commoners access to free stock trading. Instead, Google awarded the Robinhood team for its design prowess.

Despite Material design being found in over a million Android apps now, it makes sense that Google would want to highlight an app with the freshest and most extensive use of material design.

Tapping and swiping through Robinhood, it’s clear to see the team thought a lot about how to make looking at rather boring financial stats playful and interesting.

Robinhood (free)

play awards tabble tennis touch
Best use of Google Play Game Services: Table Tennis Touch

Anyone ready for a quick game of Table Tennis? Even if your friends answer no, Table Tennis Touch will find some random stranger using Google Play Game Services who can put your backhand, forehand, lob, spin, and any other table tennis terminology to the test.

If you’re unable to find someone to play against, you can always challenge the computer to a quick match to 11.

Table Tennis Touch ($2.99)

play awards hopper
Standout Startup: Hopper

Don’t let the cute bunny on the app’s icon fool you, Hopper is rather brutal to airlines.

Unlike most travel apps that give you the current price for plane tickets, Hopper will tell you if you need to buy tickets now, wait, or find different dates to get the best deal on your flight.

Hopper will send you alerts for trips you’ve entered, letting you know when the price drops or when the price is about to go up.

I just looked at prices for a trip I’ve been thinking about booking, and if I wait two more weeks to book it Hopper tells me I could save up to $30 based on historical pricing data.

Thanks, my little furry friend.

Hopper (free)

play awards alphabear
Standout Indie: Alphabear

Achieving success as an independent developer is a rough and tough process. So what do the developers at Spry Fox do? They release a really cute game, Alphabear.

The goal of the game is to spell words using various letters on the game board, in turn helping bears grow. There are various types of bears you can unlock based on the number of points you earn in each level.

Just make sure you use as many letters as you can, if not, you risk some of the letters turning into rocks, in turn preventing how big your bear can get.

Alphabear (free)

play awards nyt vr
Most Innovative: NYT VR

Innovation in VR was a hot topic this year at I/O with Android’s upcoming Daydream feature taking center stage. Furthering the theme of innovation and VR, The New York Times’ NYT VR app took the home the award for the most innovative app.

Users of the NYT VR app can use Google Cardboard to go inside the news. Or for those who don’t subscribe to the NYT you can still use the app to view interactive videos.

NYT VR (free)

play awards pokemon
Go Global: Pokémon Shuffle Mobile

What’s more Global than Pokémon? Nothing, according to Google.

Actually, Google’s Go Global award is for developers who create an app or game with broad appeal, and offered it in localized languages. Fellow nominees in this category included Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle.

However, Pokémon prevailed and is now ready for you to train and battle your Pokémon by completing puzzles. It’s reminiscent of Bejewled.

Pokémon Shuffle Mobile (free)

play awards world around me
Early Adopter: World Around Me

Ever wanted to have X-Ray vision? Well, with World Around Me you can kind of make that happen. After installing the app, you can pick a venue category and hold your phone up to eye level. As you spin around, signs are displayed giving you names, ratings, and the distance to nearby places.

It’s similar to previous augmented reality apps we’ve seen that overlay Wi-Fi connections and whatnot.

World Around Me (free)

play awards thinkrolls 2
Best Families App: Thinkrolls 2

If you have kids, you know how hard it can be to find a quality app you feel comfortable with them using.

Google thought enough of Thinkrolls 2 to proclaim it as the best app for families in 2016.

The object of the game is to roll a character through various levels, using a series of gestures and critical thinking to get past objects. First, players will need to slide an accordion out of the way. Later, players will have to deal with obstacles such as water, gravity, and sequencing.

In the few minutes I experimented with it this morning, I went from stumped to excited back to stumped. My kids would love it, no doubt.

Thinkrolls 2 ($2.99)

play awards houzz
Best App: Houzz

Taking top honors is Houzz, which I assume is pronounced “house.” Unlike other home decoration and improvement apps, Houzz gives you ideas and puts you in touch with the contractors or designers directly within the app.

It has a Pinterest-like feel to it, whereby you can save different photos and design ideas to your account and share them with friends. You can even take an existing photo and sketch over it to illustrate your idea. Go ahead, get carried away.

Perhaps the most intriguing feature is the ability to view pieces of furniture or decorations in a room of your home using a photo. Neat!

The app is free, which is a good thing, because if I were to ever show it to my wife it’d cost me thousands. Hey, every bit counts, right?

Houzz (free)